YouTube Stars Seek Mental Health Help From Online Pressure : Shots - Health News Young YouTube stars work hard to look authentic and accessible, and they can make millions of dollars doing it. But the pressure to appear perfect while living online can sometimes be too much.
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YouTube Stars Stress Out, Just Like The Rest Of Us

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YouTube Stars Stress Out, Just Like The Rest Of Us

YouTube Stars Stress Out, Just Like The Rest Of Us

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/545552788/545739278" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Just try getting that phone out of a typical teenager's hand. They are texting, posting or watching video clips at all hours. I mean, not that we adults are much different. Still, the stars who reach teens often reach them through the small screen. In survey after survey, many of the top teen celebrities are YouTube stars. They make money offering makeup tips or filming themselves playing video games. But stardom can come with its own cost. NPR's Neda Ulaby tells us how Internet celebrity can affect mental health.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: The obvious thing to do if you're a YouTube star having a bit of a meltdown is make a YouTube video about it. That's what Australian YouTuber Essena O'Neill did when she realized she was suffering signs of depression and anxiety a few years ago.

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ESSENA O'NEILL: The only time I felt better about myself, really, was the more followers, the more likes, the more praise and the more views I got online.

ULABY: O'Neill had plenty of followers and likes and praise for her vlogs. More than a million people watched her last online video where she lamented the mental health pull of living a curated life.

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O'NEILL: Wishing that people would value me, that people would hear me and that people would just know me.

ULABY: O'Neill quit social media, including YouTube, back in 2015. Living professionally online has also been a challenge for 23-year-old Lauren Riihimaki. Six million people follow her YouTube channel.

LAUREN RIIHIMAKI: You can never just kind of turn it off and be like, OK, today I don't want to be me because like that's your business.

ULABY: Riihimaki's business is making videos under the name LaurDIY. Her videos range from home decorating tips to the time she and her boyfriend adopted an adorable little dog.

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RIIHIMAKI: It's puppy day.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's puppy day.

ULABY: Riihimaki is managed by Adam Westcott. He runs a talent agency just for YouTube stars. Unlike movie stars or rock stars, he says, YouTube celebrities do most of the work themselves.

ADAM WESCOTT: They're responsible for everything from developing an idea to physically producing it to starring in to directing it to editing it to programming it to promoting and marketing it.

ULABY: And they do all that at least twice a week, endlessly developing original content where they have to seem accessible and transparent.

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RIIHIMAKI: Oh, my gosh. Baby, be careful.

ULABY: That's why Lauren Riihimaki came close, not just to burning out, but breaking down. She's been open in her LaurDIY videos about the mental health pressures her work entails.

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RIIHIMAKI: I have overcome and pushed the boundaries of my anxiety so insanely since I started YouTube with all the traveling and saying yes to things I never thought that I ever would.

ULABY: One Los Angeles therapist named Dana Julian has worked with a number of famous clients. She says one of the hardest things about managing a life as a YouTube star is making a career out of something that can be an addiction.

DANA JULIAN: Our phones have become our dopamine. And getting those clicks and likes and followers is also that other dopamine.

ULABY: A rush of neurotransmitters familiar to anyone on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. But how do you maintain your sanity when that's magnified by millions? One way, says Lauren Riihimaki, is by filtering out commenter's negative language.

RIIHIMAKI: Oh, my God, like - ugly, fat, stupid, loser - just any bad word. Like, I have like 200 words filtered out because it's just like anything negative. It's like if you don't need to see that, then it's like might as well not see it if you have the option to (laughter).

ULABY: The upside to managing YouTube stars, says Adam Wescott, is he can generally tell how his clients are doing because they're on social media all the time. When they're clearly overwhelmed, he tells them get offline for a while. Stop being a brand. Take some time just to be a person again. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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